Walking in to bat in the 2012 Test at the Wankhede, Kevin Pietersen had a lot to prove. It wasn’t just his team that had its back to the wall, Pietersen himself was going through a turbulent phase in his career.
England’s 2012 tour of India was a lengthy one. It started with four Test matches and was to be followed by two T20 Internationals and five ODIs. And things didn’t really go as per plans from the get-go.
In the first Test in Ahmedabad, a first innings collapse meant the visitors went down by nine wickets. Pietersen could only manage scores of 17 and two.
The second Test was at the Wankhede and if England had to keep alive any hopes of winning the series, the least they had to do was earn a draw in Mumbai. Little did anyone know at the time that they’d go on to achieve a lot more.
Batting first, India finished with 327 runs thanks to a typically gritty hundred by Cheteshwar Pujara and a fine half-century by Ravichandran Ashwin down the order. In reply, England found themselves in a spot of bother when they were reduced to 68/2.
And that’s when Pietersen walked in to bat and ended up changing the course of the entire series.
Pause, Rewind, Play
Relive epic moments, rare interviews and more from the world of sport.
Now, there are three things to note while trying to understand the kind of pressure Pietersen was under.
Firstly, he hadn’t had a great start to the series. In the first Test, the right-hander was clean-bowled by Pragyan Ojha in both the innings. He was, perhaps, least comfortable against left-arm spinners throughout his career and that weakness had been exposed once again.
Secondly, batting conditions at the Wankhede were tough to put it mildly. Mumbai was scorching in November heat, the pitch had plenty in it for spinners, and India had gone in with Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan Singh.
The sharp turn and bounce on offer was part of the reason why India couldn’t manage a big total, with Monty Panesar getting five wickets and Graeme Swann a four-for. Who can ever forget the absolute beauty of a delivery that left-arm spinner Panesar bowled to knock back Sachin Tendulkar’s off-stump for just eight runs.
Lastly, there was the baggage of all the off-field drama that Pietersen had gone through. Earlier that year during a home series against South Africa, he had a public fallout with then skipper Andrew Strauss. Pietersen had been removed from the England setup at that time and his inclusion in the squad for the India tour was the first step in his return to the top.
How Sport Inspires
In these tough times, lift yourself up with inspiring stories from the world of sport.
With so much at stake, one wouldn’t have been surprised to see a player crumble under the pressure. But Pietersen was always different. He was no ordinary player. And the knock he went on to deliver in England’s first innings at the Wankhede remains one of the greatest counterattacks in the history of Test cricket.
The then 32-year-old made his intentions clear from the very first ball he faced. It was floated up and wide by Harbhajan, and Pietersen leaned forward to drive it past mid-off for four. He was nowhere close to the pitch of the ball but used his powerful wrists to get the ball away. It showed that he was there to play his shots and not merely to survive. And that marked the beginning of something special.
Pietersen went on to score 186 runs off 233 balls, with 20 boundaries and four sixes. It was an absolute masterclass by the tall right-hander. India’s spinners, who were supposed to be tormenting batsmen, were treated with sheer disdain.
Throughout the innings, he judged the length of each delivery in a flash. His driving was as effective as it always had been, but what worked for him brilliantly in that knock was his strokeplay square of the wicket. Pietersen got plenty of runs with square-cuts for fours and sweeps for sixes, which kept the scoreboard ticking at a healthy rate and maintained the pressure on the Indian bowlers.
The thing that stands out about that knock is the strike-rate that Pietersen batted with. He scored 186 runs at a strike-rate of 79.82, which played a major role in setting up the game for his team. If one looks at the highest scores by non-Asian batsmen in winning causes in India since the year 2000, Pietersen ranks fourth on the list for his 186 in Mumbai. But it’s his strike-rate that sets him apart.
Highest Test scores by non-Asian batsmen in a winning cause in India since 2000:
|HM Amla (SA)||253*||53.48||Nagpur||6 Feb 2010|
|AB de Villiers (SA)||217*||65.16||Ahmedabad||3 Apr 2008|
|AN Cook (ENG)||190||50.39||Kolkata||5 Dec 2012|
|KP Pietersen (ENG)||186||79.82||Mumbai||23 Nov 2012|
|JH Kallis (SA)||173||49.28||Nagpur||6 Feb 2010|
|MJ Clarke (AUS)||151||60.88||Bengaluru||6 Oct 2004|
|JH Kallis (SA)||132||48.00||Ahmedabad||3 Apr 2008|
|AJ Strauss (ENG)||128||53.33||Mumbai||18 Mar 2006|
|AC Gilchrist (AUS)||122||108.92||Mumbai||27 Feb 2001|
|AN Cook (ENG)||122||45.18||Mumbai||23 Nov 201|
England went on to win that Test at the Wankhede stadium as India suffered a dramatic collapse in their second innings (Panesar was magnificent once again with a six-for). England won the game by 10 wickets and even went on to clinch the series 2-1. It was a phenomenal achievement by the visitors, one that was triggered by that sensational counterattack by Pietersen.
England captain Alastair Cook, who won the player of the series award for a staggering 562 runs through the four Tests, couldn’t stop praising Pietersen for his heroics after the Mumbai Test.
“That’s why you want him in the team. There’s not many people, if any, in the world who can do what he did,” said Cook. “It was the difference between the two teams. How quickly he scored the runs as well, it took the game away from India.”
Press conferences of Pietersen, Cook and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni after the Mumbai Test:
For Pietersen, his effort in that second Test against India in 2012 is the second best knock he ever played in Test cricket.
“On a wicket like that, where it’s spinning, I walked out there thinking, ‘If a ball’s got your name on it, it’s got your name on it’,” he was quoted as saying by Wisden. “And I play with such a carefree attitude now that I’m not really fazed – if I get nought, I get nought, and I’ve played with that for years. I haven’t really worried.”
Here are highlights of that epic knock by Pietersen at the Wankhede Stadium in 2012: